Trips down memory lane and why book awards may matter, or not.

This week has had its ups and downs, as most do. In between them all, I’ve been blessed by “visits” from some loved ones who are gone. I’m not saying I saw their ghosts, or had psychic connections or anything, but sometimes a little thing will trigger specific memories, and for just a moment it’s like they’re smiling down at me. A private joke or a passed note, if you will. Maybe it’s the holidays. Maybe it’s the perpetual lack of sleep. Anyway, for what it’s worth,  yesterday as I came to job #2, coming around the corner I saw a gentleman who could have passed for my grandfather from a distance. Same posture and stance, same little bald spot, same style clothing. Luckily, from the front and up close the resemblance faded. He still made me think “Hi Pop.” Tonight I looked up and saw another reminder of him at work. For 39 years he worked for the local newspaper, the News-Sentinel, and our house ALWAYS had a 3-month wall calendar emblazoned with their logo. I think they were supposed to be gifts to advertisers or some such. Either way, another smile, another memory. How I never noticed it before (I’ve been here about 3 months) I’ll never know.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s always something small like that. I wonder what things will trigger memories of me? I hope that wherever they are, all those whom I think of know that they are remembered and loved.

The stroll down memory lane that those moments start leads to my next topic. My life can be cataloged by the authors and books that I read at different times, or re-read, as the case may be. I can’t see some covers or even titles without a similar memory trigger as the calendar on the wall just gave me. There are some books I wish I could find and re-read again. I can remember where they were in my Elementary School library or the local branch, their color in that weird binding material libraries used, how they captured my imagination and interest, but cannot for the life of me remember the title or author. Still, they stayed with me, inanimate reminders of who I was, what I was interested in.

The school I work at  (and several I have worked at) does something called SSR (Sustained Silent Reading). Students and Teachers are supposed to read for 10 minutes at the beginning of class as a way to foster literacy. In theory, the students get into the habit of carrying a book, reading when they can, and generally increase their literacy.  I love my 10 min break in the middle of the day. It totally saves my sanity.  Some of the kids feel the same way. They’re the ones chuckling at their books, books already out when I say “ok it’s time”, still reading as I start class. Then there are the ones who just stare at the pages of whatever the novel for English class is. Or the ones who have their own book, but it’s been the same book all year and I would bet WAY more cash than I have available that they have NO IDEA what the book is about. They make me sad. How do you foster genuine love of reading? How do you make “required” reading an internal motivation, not a meaningless list? How will they catalog their memories: video games they played at a certain age? Twitter feeds they followed in HS? Episodes of Jersey Shore? Cell phones they had?

I think for me, that’s where all these awards and recommended books MAY have a special value. If you can grab someone’s attention with ONE good book, maybe they’ll read another. On the other hand, maybe it’s not the award winner that will do it. Maybe it’s Captian Underpants/Twilight/Vampire Diaries or whatever that kid thinks is cool. Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble. It’s been a week. Back to awards tomorrow w/ Asian American Themed Awards.

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2 Comments on “Trips down memory lane and why book awards may matter, or not.”

  1. I really enjoyed your post–everything from the visits from loved ones to past books to literacy issues. (My own son is the kid in the class just staring at the pages…. I’m working on it….)

    Anyway, Thoreau wrote that “Our thoughts are the epochs in our lives”—but, for readers, books are epochs as well. Fourth grade: Chronicles of Narnia. Seventh grade: Catcher in the Rye. Eighth grade: Romeo and Juliet. High school junior year: Great Gatsby. Senior year: The Fountainhead. While living in Spain in college: For Whom the Bell Tolls. First year in grad school: All the King’s Men and Light in August. While living in LA: Blood Meridian. The list goes on–the reader’s memory lane….

    Have you read the following poem?

    “The Reader” by Richard Wilbur

    She is going back, these days, to the great stories
    That charmed her younger mind. A shaded light
    Shines on the nape half-shadowed by her curls,
    And a page turns now with a scuffing sound.
    Onward they come again, the orphans reaching
    For a first handhold in a stony world,
    The young provincials who at last look down
    On the city’s maze, and will descend into it,
    The serious girl, once more, who would live nobly,
    The sly one who aspires to marry so,
    The young man bent on glory, and that other
    Who seeks a burden. Knowing as she does
    What will become of them in bloody field
    Or Tuscan garden, it may be that at times
    She sees their first and final selves at once,
    As a god might to whom all time is now.
    Or, having lived so much herself, perhaps
    She meets them this time with a wiser eye,
    Noting that Julien’s calculating head
    Is from the first too severed from his heart.
    But the true wonder of it is that she,
    For all that she may know of consequences,
    Still turns enchanted to the next bright page
    Like some Natasha in the ballroom door—
    Caught in the flow of things wherever bound,
    The blind delight of being, ready still
    To enter life on life and see them through.

    • Beautiful poem! He captures so well the joy in re-reading, even if you know how the story ends. It’s a visit with a friend, and in a well-done book, it adds even more to the story to see what’s coming. I’m glad other people do the same thing. Good luck with your son! My DH was one of those children too. He will read now for pleasure, but it took adulthood before he could sit still that long. lol. Thank you for the thoughtful comment.


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